Wondering whether or not to start Michael Vick and Jamaal Charles, or to bench Luke McCown and Legedu Naanee? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2011 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions at Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defense is on the rise, but Detroit is catching them at the right time. Stafford has some dangerous receiving weapons at his disposal, and he should rack up big numbers, especially if he’s forced to play from behind.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts at Texans. While Kerry Collins is directing this offense, the Colts will lean on Addai more than usual; especially as a dump-off receiver and goal-line rusher. He’s a great flex play against a sub-par Houston defense.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Panthers. When healthy, Wells can be a productive fantasy back, especially near the goal line. So you’d better play him while he’s fit and has the backfield all to himself. The Panthers’ run defense is among the league’s softest.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets vs. Cowboys. I realize this is his first real action in nearly three years, but he’ll be facing one of the NFL’s most generous secondaries playing without one (most likely both) of its starting cornerbacks. Burress should have a triumphant return in an emotional Sunday night contest.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers vs. Vikings. He’s a big red zone target playing against a suspect secondary. Floyd will exploit his size advantage against a defense that must focus the majority of its attention on Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez; RBs DeAngelo Williams, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Shonn Greene, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Santonio Holmes, Anquan Boldin.
Roll ‘em back
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Ravens. He tallied 479 yards and 3 TDs in his two outings against Baltimore last season. Not bad, but not winning fantasy numbers either. Though Mike Wallace is a stud, Big Ben will need some time to break in the two young receivers that are vying to supplant the aging Hines Ward.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals at Browns. Benson has spent more time in jail than on the practice field over the last week, and his team faces its fiercest division rival with Andy Dalton at the controls. Cleveland will surely stack the line against the run and dare the rookie to throw. It could be a long day (year?) for the visiting team.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Vikings. Even though Minnesota won’t have its Williams Wall in place, San Diego should have much greater success through the air than on the ground. Mathews will split carries with Mike Tolbert – at least until one emerges as the workhorse – limiting both backs’ upside against a solid run defense.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys at Jets. Austin sat out the preseason while nursing a bum hamstring, and he will line up against Darrelle Revis in the opener. A rusty, less-than-100-percent wideout on Revis Island is a risky bet.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots at Dolphins. Vontae Davis wasn’t that far off when he claimed that he and Sean Smith are “the best (cornerback) tandem in the league.” They don’t have islands named for them, but they are plenty capable of clamping down on a receiver that’s struggling to learn a new system. Like Ochocinco.
More thumbs down: QBs Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford; RBs Ryan Grant, Daniel Thomas, Felix Jones, Marshawn Lynch; WRs Sidney Rice, Austin Collie, Michael Crabtree, Jacoby Ford, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Sims-Walker, all Jaguars receivers.
Taking a flier
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos vs. Raiders. People forget that Orton was an elite fantasy passer over the first half of the 2010 season, before the Tim Tebow Experiment began. Though John Fox is expected to de-emphasize the passing attack, Denver’s running game can’t carry the load. Against a Raiders secondary no longer anchored by Nnamdi Asomugha, Orton and his receivers should prosper.
Don’t be the bonehead who…forgets to set your lineup for tonight’s NFL season opener between the Packers and Saints. That’s no way to start your march to a fantasy championship.